Now that 4k is really starting to explode in popularity, we feel that it's important for us to cover the basics about 4k UHD Blu-ray Players, including their region-free capabilities. As region-free specialists, it's our duty to get this information out there so consumers can make informed decisions about their purchases; more importantly, so they can be sure they're getting the product & features that they're looking for and expect.
Since the release of the Samsung UBD-K8500 with 4k Ultra-HD last month (the world's first true UHD Blu-ray Player), there has been a lot of misconception floating around the web in regards to the idea that all 4k UHD Blu-ray Players are region-free. How did these rumors start and what are the facts? We're not sure exactly how they started, but let's take a closer look at the facts.
What is Region-Free?
By default, most Blu-ray Discs and DVDs utilize a special coding within disc. What this coding does is provide information that's read by the Blu-ray or DVD Player to determine if the disc is compatible with the player. Around the world, Blu-ray Discs and DVDs from specific regions are embedded with a code that is native to that region only. Likewise, most Blu-ray and DVD Players around the world are designed to only play discs that are encoded for the local region. For example, a Blu-ray Player sold in the United States is only setup to read and play discs sold in the United States. A Blu-ray Player from Asia is only setup to read and play discs sold in Asia. Attempting to play a disc from Asia in a Blu-ray Player purchased in the United States will result in an error message, and the disc simply will not play. The player is reading the disc, recognizing that it's from a different region and determining that the disc is incompatible.
The reasons for region-coding discs are many, but to keep it simple and understandable, the main reason for region-coding is that movies are not always released at the same times around the world. In some countries, movies are still being shown in the theaters while other countries already have them on Blu-ray. In order to protect profits and ensure that people aren't importing discs from overseas before movies are in theaters, the production and distribution companies (in conjunction with electronics manufacturers) developed region-coding.
Region-coding works as follows: Blu-ray discs feature 3 separate regions - A, B, and C. On the other hand, DVDs feature 9 different regions - 0 through 8. You can see a region-code map here for more information. The only discs that will play on your player are the discs sold in the same region where your player was bought; and the only way around this is to purchase a region-free blu-ray player. But we'll get to that later.
Are all 4k UHD Blu-ray Players Region-Free
No, and this is where the misconception and misinformation come into play. For some reason, manufacturers have decided not to code 4k discs by region. In other words, if you have a 4k movie title, it should play in any 4k player, regardless of what country the disc came from. However, this is only true for 4k discs. Any other disc, such as a non-4k Blu-ray or a DVD, will not play in the 4k player.
The rumors that've been circulating claim that all 4k UHD Blu-ray Players are region-free. This has created a lot of debate and confusion, and it also has many consumers deciding that they need to purchase a new 4k UHD Blu-ray Player so they can watch movies from anywhere in the world. Again, this could not be further from the truth.
A real region-free player will play any disc, from anywhere in the world. The ability of 4k Players to play any 4k disc does not make the player region-free. In fact, as 4k becomes more widespread on the global marketplace, the discs may very well be region-coded. For all we know, the only reason these discs aren't being coded as of yet is to help promote growth of 4k technology - nothing more than a marketing tactic. While we cannot verify the reasoning behind 4k being regionless, we can definitely assure you that a 4k Player will not play standard Blu-ray or DVD discs from any region.
Region-Free 4k, Blu-ray and DVD Players
The only way to ensure that you can play any disc - be it 4k, Blu-ray or DVD - from any region in the world is to purchase a Region-Free 4k Blu-ray Player. These units are not available in stores, and they're sold only through retailers who specialize in Region-Free electronics. These specialty retailers professionally modify their units and carry the same exact models as major retailers.
One of the biggest problems is that people will see a specific brand & model of Blu-ray Player being sold by a Region-Free retailer and assume that they can purchase that same model from Best Buy and it too, will be region-free. These people will then purchase foreign discs and attempt to play them, only to realize that the player is not region-free, leaving them in a state of confusion. The ONLY way to get a region-free model is to purchase one from a region-free retailer.
As specialists in region-free electronics and with over 35 years in the industry, we hope that this article was able to help clear up some of the confusion. While we'd hope that anyone who is looking to shop for a region-free player would purchase one from us, we're more concerned with getting the facts out there. The bottom line is that there's only one way to acquire a true Region-Free 4k Bluray Player, and it's by purchasing through a reputable, region-free retailer.